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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Ship Breaker (Ship Breaker, #1)Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  In America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota--and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it's worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life...

I read The Windup Girl several years ago and was entranced with the world and characters Bacigalupi created.  Ship Breaker was just as interesting and I had a hard time putting the book down.

Set in the Gulf of Mexico, somewhere along the the coast of Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama, a small group of people struggle to survive by disassembling old oil tankers and ocean going ships for scrap and, if they are lucky, oil.  They live in fear of hurricanes, specifically "City Killers",  a new category of storm that destroys everything in its path. 

Life is a struggle for the folks on the Beach.  Laboring on the ships is hard work and your size and ability dictate what you can and cannot do.  Survival depends up on meeting quotas, and in Nailer's case, also avoiding his abusive father.  A storm changes everything when it washes a "Swanks" clipper ship onto the shoals of a submerged city.  Nailer and his friend Pima rescue "Lucky Girl" and the subsequent journey to reunite her with her father shows Nailer that there is more to family than blood.

Written as a YA book, I couldn't help but reflect that our young protagonist grew up long before the story even started, so less a coming of age story than a journey of self discovery.  I would have like more back ground on the half-men, the genetically modified laborers; I think "Lucky Girl" could have had more depth to her character - she felt very superficial to me; and more information on the power struggle in Lucky Girls life to justify reuniting her with her father.  

But, overall, minor complaints.  This really was a well written story and I highly recommended it.

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